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ARTHUR ANDERSEN CONSUMER HOLIDAY CONFIDENCE SURVEY GOOD NEWS FOR NEW JERSEY RETAILERS

 ROSELAND, N.J., Nov. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- New Jersey retailers, hoping for an upturn in holiday sales, received some good news today: results of a statewide consumer survey indicated that four out of five shoppers (79 percent) intend to purchase as much or more than they did a year ago. The figure is a significant increase of 9 percent in consumer response to the same question when asked in 1992.
 Results of the poll, the annual Consumer Holiday Confidence Survey, were announced today at the headquarters of Arthur Andersen, the accounting and financial services firm. Arthur Andersen conducted the survey in cooperation with the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association.
 Daniel S. Kaplan, Partner in Charge of Arthur Andersen's Retail Practice in New Jersey, said that "compared to 1992, the present survey results display a guarded, but growing, consumer optimism concerning the economy."
 The majority of respondents who indicated that they expect to decrease their spending this holiday season attributed the lingering recession as the cause. "Nonetheless," Kaplan said, "the overall public mood is one of confidence and merchants' expectations are higher than a year ago."
 New Jersey Retail Merchants Association President Melanie Willoughby echoed Kaplan's assessment, adding that "early retail sales for this holiday buying season are strong and we feel that the period will outpace last year's figures."
 New Jersey consumers overwhelmingly discounted both the outcome of state and local elections and action by the federal government when making their holiday buying plans. Some 92 percent dismissed the elections as being influential, while an equally conclusive 87 percent stated that Washington's deficit reduction program and healthcare reform had no impact on their purchasing intentions.
 Clothing (55 percent of respondents) and toys (18 percent) retained their status as the traditional holiday gifts of choice. When determining where they will shop, Garden State consumers voiced a decided preference for department stores (62 percent) as their first choice for store type and indoor malls (63 percent) as their preferred location. Only 8 percent cited shopping via mail order outlets.
 An interesting sidelight is the note that only 3 percent of the respondents stated that personal safety is the most important influence on how and where they shop. Personal safety was a significant concern among New Jersey consumers in 1992 as a result of a series of carjackings and attacks. Tougher laws and enhanced security seem to have eased consumers' fears.
 More than half (52 percent) of the respondents indicated that their average gift purchase would be $40 or more and 44 percent stated that the largest single holiday gift they intend to buy would be in the $100 to $249 range.
 The survey also tabulated respondents in terms of sex and family incomes of below or above $75,000 annually. While all categories show a concern with price, men with household incomes in excess of $75,000 also regard selection and quality as important. Women in the higher income group are most likely to buy a gift over $500. In the below $75,000 income bracket, women tend to shop earlier in the buying season, while men in the same income level turn out to be the group most likely to spend more this holiday season than 1992.
 The survey format was a series of telephone interviews with 400 New Jersey residents randomly selected. The poll was conducted during the week of November 8 (post election); the results have a margin of error of 5 percent.
 -0- 11/23/93
 /CONTACT: Frank McGuire of Arthur Andersen, 201-228-3974/


CO: Arthur Andersen; New Jersey Retail Merchants Association ST: New Jersey IN: REA SU: ECO

TW-WB -- NY062 -- 7377 11/23/93 15:45 EST
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Date:Nov 23, 1993
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